Pruitt Returns a Favor, Hires a Pal at EPA
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Pruitt Returns a Favor, Hires a Pal at EPA

Banned Banker Oversees Superfund Program; Curious Loans to the EPA Administrator

Scott Pruitt (left) and Albert Kelly in Oklahoma in May (Intercept photo).

Banished banker. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt appointed a banker who has been banned from the banking industry for life to oversee the nation’s Superfund program, reports the Intercept. Pruitt has received loans from the bank of Albert “Kell” Kelly who was fined $125,000 and banned from banking this summer by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

In 2004, when Pruitt was earning only $38,400 as an Oklahoma state senator, he bought a $605,000 house in the Lakes at Indian Springs community in Broken Arrow, the suburb of Tulsa that Pruitt represented in the legislature, with three mortgage loans from Kelly’s SpiritBank: one for $81,000, another for $359,000 and a third for $533,000.

Kelly, whom the FDIC said was unfit “to serve as a director, officer, person participating in the conduct of the affairs or as an institution-affiliated party of the Bank, any other insured depository institution,” has no previous experience with environmental issues.

The FDIC has declined to release more information to the Intercept about the particular violations that led to Kelly’s fine and lifetime ban from banking. But public records show that SpiritBank suffered significant losses under his leadership. At its peak, the bank had $1.5 billion in assets, according to Kelly’s resume. Today, it has less than half that amount.

EPA’s Superfund program, which costs about $1 billion a year, is responsible for cleaning up contaminated land and responding to environmental emergencies, oil spills and natural disasters.

HUD decision. A federal judge has ordered the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to implement an Obama-era rule on Jan. 1 that would give low-income families greater access to housing in more affluent neighborhoods.

The 2016 rule was designed to break up areas of concentrated poverty in two dozen metro regions, from Atlanta and Charlotte to San Diego and Honolulu. The rule would take into account rental prices in specific neighborhoods, instead of averaging across an entire metropolitan area, making it easier for poor people to afford apartments in middle-class neighborhoods with better schools, lower crime rates and more job prospects.

Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that HUD’s decision to delay implementing the rule was “arbitrary and capricious.”

Long lines. Hundreds of people waited in line in Rockland County, New York, to get their property tax bills and pay them. The parking lot was so crowded that police officers directed traffic. But efforts to prepay property taxes for 2018 to get around Trump’s limits on deductions in the new tax law were thrown into doubt by an IRS memo. The nonbinding guidance said property taxes paid this year would be subject to the 2017 rules only if the taxes are actually assessed in 2017.

Extreme weather. The cold is likely to be the nation’s most extreme since February 2015. Temperatures some 15 to 30 degrees lower than normal will grip much of the eastern two-thirds of the nation for up to seven to 10 more days. Some parts of the north-central United States could see temperatures an astonishing 40 to 50 degrees colder than normal this weekend. On New Year’s Day, the nation’s average low temperature that morning is expected to be about 10 degrees.

Electricity. Power companies are building gas-fired power plants, fueled by a glut of gas from U.S. shale fields. Invenergy LLC and Calpine Corp. are building plants above the Marcellus Formation of shale in Pennsylvania and Ohio. The build-out comes as American shale drillers continue pumping so much gas that the price of the fuel has plunged from highs of over $13 per million British thermal units in 2008 to less than $3 per million BTUs today. Older coal and nuclear power plants have been the biggest losers in the competition among power producers, including increased supply from wind.

Featured Photo: Albert “Kell” Kelly (CSPAN).

December 29, 2017